Holiday Relations: Strategize for Sweet Memories with Salty People

A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19 ESV

Memories…..we all have some fond memories of Christmas past, but sometimes there are those ouchie-not-so-fun, memories of the extended family gatherings or the spouse’s work party that went awry. These memories usually include a relational struggle, including two personalities that just didn’t have the right chemistry mix at the time or perhaps never seem to mix well. The nosey aunt always trying to figure things out and fix everyone else, in spite of needing “fixed” herself. You know the one-divorced more times than you can count on one hand, but always has strong opinions on what you should do in your marriage because she has had so much experience ;-). How do you handle her? Do you go: inSane, Stuff, or reply Sweetly?

The Benjamin Franklin quote, used much in the world of organization, “If you have no plan, you are planning to fail” also works with tense relationships. Yet it requires some introspection, and yes, some inner work on you and me.  Not the humanistic approach, ‘Just tell yourself how wonderful you are and don’t let anyone else’s opinions bother you!’…….Bunk! who can do that?? I mean, come on!  A mean spirited comment hurts. Now, some will allow it to fester much more and longer than necessary. But it does not have to be this way.

Steps for Success with {Genuine} Sweet Responses

Don’t go Judging!  Although it is HARD to believe, not everyone thinks just like you. In your heart and mind you have worked out levels of integrity and standards to live by that you deem acceptable to the world.  These standards are generally unwritten, but seem to make logical sense to us based on what we know to date. The key here, is based on what we know.  Your friend or relative may justify their standards by a very different set of lenses. Each person has different experiences in life: different upbringings, cultural influences, levels of guidance by others (some have many wise counselors in their life and some have/had very little mentoring growing up). Trust me, your holiday celebrations will be much sweeter if you do not make assumptions on what Johnny should think is “appropriate” or not.  Now, this is not to say that you must allow all forms of offensive language or watch programs that do not meet your moral code – it simply means you do not have the right to make a universal judgment condemning someone else’s choice. If you do, your response will look much different than one sweetened with grace.  Both ways get the results, one just leaves behind more damage than the other. You always have the option to leave the room and take your kids with you, if the environment is unhealthy. But consider carefully “how” you will exit with grace not disgrace.

Don’t Fester, Forgive.  I know: forgiving is hard business.  And it is serious business. It requires our full attention and our full surrender, humbleness and meekness. I wish it were easier to forgive AND forget, but usually we do not forget.  This is normal, but becomes problematic if we fester over our past wounds. It is like the Proverb says, A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city.  Don’t be like that wall: impenetrable, unyielding to others, stone-cold. These characteristics do not make for warm fuzzy memories – they make the type of memories we repress. Are you harboring an offense? Will you take this before the Lord now and ask Him to help you to let go and forgive – even if it does not seem fair? Afterall, you have been forgiven and it was not a fair trade.

My teenage son has a saying when he see someone over reacting, “Ah, it tastes a little salty around here.” May those who interact with you during the Christmas season, taste the sweetness of your grace and love, no matter the circumstances.

May you make many wonderful new memories to call up in the years to come. And it is my prayer that those needing reconciliation will see a degree of success in this season.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 NIV 

 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

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